Marketers: Wondering What Consumers Expect in 2022? We Asked Them

By John Pecaric, President of Marketing Solutions and Business Services, RRD

With new channels emerging and new trends taking hold, consumer expectations are always evolving. For marketers, it can feel like a moving target. It’s challenging to find the right way to engage an audience when consumer preferences are so fluid. The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s an ongoing exercise in understanding where consumers are coming from and what’s driving their behavior. However, there’s a way to ensure marketing strategies ladder up to consumer expectations. If you want to know what consumers are looking for, ask them. 

RRD surveyed 250 marketers and 1,000 consumers in the U.S. to understand where consumer expectations and marketer priorities intersect. The survey uncovered significant differences between marketer assumptions and what consumers say actually influences their brand awareness and purchase decisions.

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Here are a few of the most salient findings.

It’s time to redefine (and re-engage) word of mouth 

For nearly a third of consumers (28%) surveyed in the report, word of mouth is the preferred method for learning about a new brand, product or service — outpacing social media (23%), cable TV (12%) and online/digital ads (11%). Further, word of mouth outranked all other forms of brand discovery, with the survey findings showing that the majority (55%) of consumers have discovered a new brand, product, or service in the past year through word of mouth, followed by social media (53%). Meanwhile, a mere 4% of marketers identified word of mouth as a consumer preference for learning about new brands, products or services.

So what can marketers do to leverage this trend? Give consumers something to talk about. Marketers should work to deliver timely, relevant and share-worthy messaging that gives consumers a jumping off point to spark a conversation surrounding their brands, both in-person and online. 

Consumers are more excited to receive direct mail

51% of consumers were more excited to receive direct mail in the past year than they were in the year prior, and this excitement is highest among Gen Y (65%), Gen Z (57%), and Gen X (53%). Baby Boomers are least likely to be excited about receiving direct mail (36%). While 67% of marketers made significant changes to their marketing strategies in the past year, the consumer data suggests that marketers should continue to fine-tune their efforts and consider re-investing in traditional marketing channels.

Retailers should invest in the in-store experience

When asked, more than a third (35%) of consumers said that the changes they made to their shopping habits due to the pandemic will only last less than six months. This contrasts with marketers’ assumptions, with 43% expecting consumers not to return to their pre-pandemic shopping habits for another 6-12 months. These data points suggest that consumers are more eager to return to in-store shopping than many marketers assume and have high expectations of what that return should look like, confirming the importance of experience-driven, in-store marketing strategies.

While some marketers pivoted budgets toward driving traffic to brand websites amid the pandemic, this data suggests that marketers should remain agile and invest in creating exceptional in-store customer experiences in their brick-and-mortar shops simultaneously.

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Pinterest and TikTok are on the rise while influencers wane

The survey showed that when it comes to following their favorite brands, consumers prefer Pinterest (21%), TikTok (20%) and Twitter (19%) over Snapchat (16%) and Reddit (11%). Meanwhile, 82% of marketers believe influencers drive consumer purchases. The reality is that just over a quarter (26%) of consumers say that influencers make them more likely to purchase new products or services. Marketers also overestimated the power of Snapchat, with 21% saying that consumers use the platform to discover new brands, while only 7% of consumers agreed. 

These findings pose additional complexities for marketers looking to connect with their audiences: while consumers had indicated a higher preference for some forms of traditional marketing channels – word of mouth, in-person marketing – their engagement with brands online and via social media is quick to evolve. Marketers should work to stay on top of which social channels are resonating with consumers and be prepared to inject budget dollars quickly to tap into the trend and evaluate ROI.

As potential customers seek to discover, research, and ultimately purchase new products, it can be tough to ladder up marketing strategies to engage consumers how they want to be engaged.  To sustain strategic flexibility – and therefore, success – marketers should stay vigilant in their efforts to unearth real-time insight into consumer preferences and the ever-changing environment they live in. 

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